An Open Letter from the Minnesota State Fair Knitting Judges

The Guild received an open letter from one the judges of the knitting categories at the Minnesota State Fair. At the request of the sender, their name has not been included.

The author of the letter shared:

“I had the honor of being one of the judges at this year’s State Fair in the knitting category.  On behalf of myself and the other judges we wanted to try to alleviate some of the misconceptions about the way the judging is conducted.  We understand that there will always be people who are disappointed with their scores; however, we hope that this letter will help all your members understand how the judging is done and we have offered a few helpful tips on what we are looking at when we judge the pieces.
Please share this letter with your members so they have a better understanding of the process and how the competition works.”


An open letter from the State Fair Knitting Judges

On behalf of the State Fair, we would like to thank everyone who participated in the hand knitted articles category this year.  This year there were a whopping 581 pieces judged.  This is down slightly from the highest number on record of 600 pieces that were judged in 2021. If you have been entering items for a while you would have noticed that over the years categories or lots have been added or modified to keep up with knitting trends and to better define the articles that qualify for each lot.

Before you enter

If you are considering entering hand knit items to the fair in 2024, be sure to carefully review the lots and the requirements for each.  This information is posted on the State fair website under Creative Activities prior to the fair.

It is critical that your article be entered into the correct lot. If an article is entered into the wrong lot and the mistake is discovered prior to judging that lot, the judges will move it to the correct lot. If the mistake is discovered after the lot has been judged, the article may be disqualified from judging.

Note: only one entry per person is allowed in each category but you are free to enter in as many categories you would like.

Help us help you:

Please add a note when you submit your items if the pieces are made with handspun yarn or they are an original design as both of the details will be considered when judging your articles.  You can also enter other information you would like us to consider regarding your items.

The Judging 

The judges go to great lengths to be fair to each person submitting items. All the judging is done blind so we have no idea who submitted which item. Each item in a lot is judged against every other item in that lot so the number of items you are competing against will vary from year to year based on the popularity of any given lot.  For example: Socks, hats, mittens and shawls are popular lots and can have large numbers of pieces submitted.  Only the top 25 submissions in each lot will be judged; others will not receive comments from the judges.

At the start of judging all entries are separated by lots. At this stage if we find items submitted under the wrong lot, we will make any necessary adjustments.  Items are measured and carefully reviewed to make sure they are meeting the criteria for the lot in which they are entered.

The judges work in pairs for smaller lots and as a team for the larger lots.  Each entry is carefully reviewed and the top 5 articles are selected.  These 5 are ranked and awarded ribbons, then evaluation cards are filled out for the top 5 and up to 20 other entries in each lot.

When all the lots are completed, the judges gather all the top ribbon winners from each lot and carefully review them for the Sweepstakes which represent the best knitted item in any general knitting lot, and the best afghan.  Once the two Sweepstakes winners are chosen the judges distribute the Special awards based on the criteria listed for each award.

The scoring: 

In order to make the judging consistent among all the judges the entry receiving the first place in any lot will receive a score of 99 and then, 98, 97 and so on for the top 5 entries assuming the judges felt the scores are warranted.  In some cases, top scores are not awarded if the judges felt the submissions did not meet the standards for the ranking.  Rankings below the top 5 are at the judge’s discretion.  The score of 100 is reserved for the Sweepstakes winners only.

The judging cards:

The judging cards you receive are designed to help you understand what the judges saw in your article and how you can improve your work for future submissions.

Tips for success in entering articles: 

Take some time to review the articles carefully and critically you wish to enter. Have you worked in all the loose ends, has the article been properly blocked, has pet hair been removed, if the article has been worn is it clean and pill free?  Always keep in mind that often the smallest details separate the ribbon winners from all the other articles entered.

Consider the overall appearance of your pieces.  Does the yarn selected enhance or detract from the stitch pattern? Highly textured or variegated yarns will hide stitch patterns and can hurt the overall appearance of the finished article.  Careful pattern and yarn selection are a critical first step in the final appearance of your items.

Another critical factor is how even the gauge is across all the stitches and rows.  Uneven or loose stitches are often the cause for a lower score.  Cables turned the wrong direction or missed entirely, uneven color work, and laddered row changes, are also common and preventable mistakes that will lower your score.

Finishing is one of the major factors we look at when judging each item. Sock toes with thick seams or holes where the heels are attached, holes in mittens where the thumb joins the hand, very thick seaming, uneven seaming, and overall messy finishing will greatly affect your final score.

The level of difficulty is also a major contributing factor in the scoring.  In the same lot there can be a simple Stockinette stitch item and a complex lace of textured stitch item. In every lot the level of difficulty is a consideration.

One final word:

Do the best work you can and be proud of what you have accomplished and proud to see your work among all the other items at the fair with or without a ribbon.   Always remember there is always next year.

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Headshot of Roxanne RichardsonRoxanne Richardson is a knitting communicator who lives in Minneapolis. Her YouTube channel explores a variety of knitting-related topics, including knitting history and techniques, and she writes technical knitting articles for Interweave publications. She’s a certified master hand knitter and certified knitting teacher, and she can’t wait to answer your burning knitting questions.

Bonnie Swierzbin

Marketing Director

(Term 1, Year 2)

Bonnie comes from a long line of makers, so between their sewing and her own knitting, her Barbies had loads of one-of-a-kind dresses. She loves to buy yarn and knit while she travels, so she has a yarn stash the size of Cleveland and memories imbued with knitting; she can tell you exactly what baby sweater she was making on the overnight ferry from Rab to Split, Croatia, in 1985. When she isn't knitting, Bonnie is dyeing yarn and vintage textiles, embroidering, and making felt or silk paper vessels. She's happiest when she is learning a new skill or knitting technique. (she, her, hers)

Kelly Amoth


(Term 1, Year 2)

A visiting friend from Seattle taught Kelly the very basics of knitting (a twisted loop cast on and just the knit stitch) in 2008 before flying home. Turning to the internet (thanks!) Kelly taught herself through a lot of trial and error. Uncontent to keep knitting the scarf she’d started as her first project, she jumped into knitting a pair of striped mittens for her non-knitter, but very knitworthy, twin sister. Twelve years later the mittens are still in her sister’s glove box, and Kelly is usually horrified when she pulls them out and sees the mistakes she made using double pointed needles for the first time. Kelly loves knitting socks and is thankful for the many months of cold weather when she gets to exclusively wear her handknits. (she, her, hers)

Kendra Hyland


(Term 1, Year 1)

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Rose Tobelmann


(Term 2, Year 2)

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Open Position

Programming Director

(3-year term)

This position is currently open. If you are interested in volunteering for the Guild board, please contact our president, Kelly, at the email me link below.

Betsy Preston

Service Director

(Term 1, Year 3)

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Nikky Heidel

Membership/Programming Director

(Term 2, Year 1)

Nikky was first introduced to knitting in 2012 when her visiting sister-in-law taught her the basics of casting on and the knit stitch. A few weeks later, she learned how to purl from her mother-in-law. From there, it quickly became a passion and she has taken on each new project with a desire to expand her skill and discover new techniques. She loves a good mystery (knit-a-long) and knits way more shawls than a single person can wear in a month.

Melissa Mintern

Technology Director

(Term 1, Year 2)

Melissa has been knitting for 15 years. She loves socks and sweaters. She is a new member who hopes to use her marketing background to lift up the MKG. While she isn't local to MN, she really loves the atmosphere created by the Guild. Melissa and significant other Al enjoy traveling, wherein Al graciously offers to drive so Melissa can knit in the passenger seat. (she, her, hers)

Anna Turk

Yarnover Committee Chair

While Anna learned to knit at some long-forgotten point in time, her commitment to the craft really began her freshman year of college. Sitting still has never been Anna’s strong suit, and giving her hands something to do while chatting with friends or watching movies in the dorm brought a sense of calm during this new chapter of her life. Once the sense of calm wore off (and no one else needed a scarf), she began trying new techniques, patterns, and projects, and until 2018 was primarily a self-taught knitter. After being intimidated early in her crafting, Anna feels strongly about creating a welcoming environment within the fiber community for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. She enjoys knitting and fiber traveling, test and service knitting, a good challenge (knitting or otherwise), and is likely to have at least 3 WIPs at any one time. She is also learning to spin and ply her own yarn! (she/her/hers)

A photograph of hands knitting green yarn against a black background.Project HandWork is an exhibit of photos by photographer Christopher Dykes. Using flash, a backdrop, and the infinite human variety, Christopher is collecting a series of images of hands at work in the fiber community. Manicures, hangnails, tattoos, wristwatches, cheap yarn, expensive silk, easy socks and exquisite lace all show the human diversity and the compulsion to create.

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Anne Rojas


Laura Haave

Great Guild Getaway Committee Chair

Laura learned to knit in 2003 by taking a four-week class during MIT's annual January Independent Activities Period. The class project was a striped hat knit in the round, and since that time, Laura has been a big advocate of 1) helping other adults learn to knit for the first time, 2) hats as a manageable first project, and 3) circular needles for everything. She enjoys thinking about knitting and planning her next project almost as much as she enjoys actually knitting. Laura is highly motivated by knit-alongs and loves to knit in community. (she, her, hers)

Jess Dahlberg

Newsletter Editor

Jess learned to knit in middle school and attempted (but never quite finished) a few garter stitch scarves. Years later, she picked up crochet with her best friend in law school and eventually fell back into knitting. Ever since then, she's been a daily knitter (commuting time for the win!) and has never looked back. She enjoys knitting gifts for friends and family and loves trying new techniques. (she, her, hers)

Meg Duncan

Vice President

(Term 1, Year 2)

Meg grew up surrounded by makers. Her mom, a master quilter, former Home Ec teacher, and 4-H club leader in Duluth, taught her to sew, embroider, and cook. She won a trip to the State Fair as the Dress Review Princess at 13! Another MKG member taught her to knit continental style 15 years ago. Meg can’t sit still and NOT be knitting, embroidering, rug hooking or sewing. Favorite thing to knit? Mittens! She loves taking classes and learning new things – absolutely amazed and inspired by all the amazing knitters in the guild! (she, her, hers)

Get Bentz Farm LogoOur spinning demonstrations are sponsored by Get Bentz Farm. 

After growing up in the city and suburbs, the owners of Get Bentz Farm felt a need to be closer to nature and to be more connected to where their food came from. 

In 2014, they found a farm house for sale and later that year they decided on and purchased their first two Icelandic sheep. 

Once they had a good size flock they began marketing the amazing meat and wool. Initially, they found that many mills in the area do not process dual coated long wools, which slowed down their growth in yarn, but they did find a great market for wool filled bedding products and batting for spinning. 

Today, they have a variety of yarns, batting and roving as well as finished products like dryer balls, sheepskins, and wool bedding. Most recently, they opened their own Get Bentz Wool Mill as well as their own line of yarn – Badgerface Fiber.

Mona McNeely been a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor since 2016 and has studied yoga since 2002.   

She has three grown kids and two, almost three, grandchildren. Her grandma taught her to knit when she was seven. She picked it up again in her early 20’s and hasn’t put the needles down since. She is also an avid spinner and has woven her share of rugs. In her spare time, she volunteers at a non-profit called We Can Ride where they use horses as therapy for people with disabilities. She also works full time as a Treasury Analyst for a fairly large company.  Somehow it all balances out.

Midwest Machine Knitters' Collaborative logo

The Midwest Machine Knitters’ Collaborative (MMKC) is a Minnesota based fiber guild established in 2011. We envisioned the Collaborative as a way to connect with other machine knitters who like to think (and knit!) outside the box. MMKC provides a forum to promote fun, interest, appreciation, education, inspiration, and camaraderie in the art of machine knitting. We welcome all levels of experience, as this is the best way to learn and inspire. We will all become better knitters through collaboration.

Kathy Lewinski


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